For the entirety of my life, I’ve avoided the fame reflected on a bookstore shelf.
When I was a young child, influential people of all stripes asked me, “Why do you avoid the fame reflected on a bookstore shelf?”
I sneered at the implied suggestion, and I now realize that my sneer was an error on my part. I admit that then I was so full of confidence in my ability to levitate an entire crowd of well-wishers by way of my verbal compositions that I failed to take note of my fans’ needs.
One grows older, though; and one hopes to grow wiser with age. And so now I wish to answer the question that my audience never has stopped asking me.
Humility. I am a talented but humble man, a man not comfortable with the unrelenting fracture of a spotlight’s slight insinuation.
Let the bookstores wait their turn. Soon enough I will be dead, and my tattered manuscripts will then lie ready inside my safe (the lock’s combination is 247 7427, that series of numerals being the telephone number of my first and fondest love, Bonnie Lee Schoenleiber).
When I was but a boy of fourteen tender years, for one grand summer I played the role of a movie theatre usher. My uniform’s jacket supported golden epaulets on its shoulders and sported brass buttons that glimmered in the moonlight rays emitted from the projection booth above us all.
Bonnie sat huddled in a special corner seat, beside the exit door and close enough to me to breathe the scent of my cologne. Aphrodisiac pudding, smeared between the reddened hardness of my adolescent nipples.
There she waited for me, oftentimes suffering repeat performances by Elvis Presley singing on the beach in Malibu. Just to feel me hold her close for a few minutes, cushioned theatre seats creaking with the weight of my perfection. Just to meet my lips with hers, my tongue tip touching hunger with an equal appetite for love. Just to know again that I — the boy who could own fame if he but said the word — preferred her heart and soul to any bookstore shelf.
“So,” you ask me, “now that you are old and beyond a spotlight’s possibilities, do you regret replacing fame with the diaphanous and always disappearing nature of a kiss?”
Your question is a fair one, but you already know my answer if you know me at all. So, my friends and fans, enemies and envious audience members alike, let’s not waste time.
Yes, a kiss vanishes, even as aphrodisiac pudding grows dry and crusty on an old man’s chest. Still, the memories linger and lay locked away within the pages of my manuscripts.
And then there are the letters. The grand response to all I write here and elsewhere for nothing more nor less than public consumption. I make but rare mention of the thousands of letters I receive from readers, although I answer each and every one of them. I suppose that some fans who write to me never expect to receive more than a form letter by return mail; but if even one lonesome admirer is encouraged to hear from the touch of my fountain pen, then all of my effort was worth much more than the sacrifice of saliva that I applied to the stamp.
Bonnie Lee Schoenleiber, as well as Elvis Presley, would have expected nothing less of me.
Love, of course, always leads a man to tragedy. If otherwise were true, then the plays of William The Speare would not have escaped the limits of time and crackled parchment paper.
I’ve suffered my share of both and all. When I was fifteen years old, a simple year beyond the moment of our first caress in aisle number two, I attended a dance affair at Bonnie Lee’s high school, and there the local football quarterback cut in as Bonnie and I were about to renew our silent vows. Because I was, and am, a gentleman, I allowed the cut. Bonnie fell in love with pigskin, and I bowed my head and walked a mile homeward, all the while wondering if I should give that spotlight and the bookshelf a second glance.
I am glad to say that I resisted gravity’s pull. Instead, I penned my manifesto, which you’ll soon discover beneath the pile of yellowed manuscripts, inside the safe whose combination is 247 7427.
With this entry I bequeath all of my verbal majesty to the fans who will love me even after death.
Fame, posthumous fame.